Championship aspirations will crumble for two sides in the upcoming penultimate weekend of the PlayStation®4 NPL NSW Men’s U20 campaign, with Manly United, Bonnyrigg White Eagles, Sydney Olympic and APIA Leichhardt all vying to keep their Grand Final dream alive.
Premiers Manly host Bonnyrigg at Seymour Shaw in what should be a classic major semi-final, while Sydney Olympic face APIA Leichhardt at Sydney United Sports Centre looking to book their ticket to Leichardt Oval in a fortnight’s time.
Major Semi Final
Manly United v Bonnyrigg White Eagles, Saturday 5.00pm at Seymour Shaw
Premiership winners Manly United find themselves two victories away from securing what would be a fantastic double-winning campaign as Andrew Christiansen’s side prepare for the arrival of Bonnyrigg White Eagles this weekend.
With both sides finishing in first and second position at the conclusion of the normal season, the victors at Seymour Shaw will likely carry the tag of strong favourites going into next fortnight’s grand final at Leichardt Oval.
Although they secured direct route to the semi-finals as a result of their premiership win, there’s little chance the Cromer Park outfit used the week’s break to rest on their laurels given their meticulous approach to the campaign thus far, and Christiansen’s side will likely be doubly primed when they welcome Bonnyrigg to Seymour Shaw.
Even despite a week’s rest, Manly will go into the major semi-final with considerable momentum – the side are unbeaten in the last two months of action, a spell that laid the groundwork for their premiership win.
In fact, Manly’s last defeat came at the hands of the White Eagles, who have proven one of few teams canny enough to outwit the seasiders this campaign. United have only been held scoreless on three occasions this season, with Bonnyrigg responsible for two of these shutouts during a pair of 2-0 victories in Round Four and Round 15.
But with Stephen Sigmund’s side likely to miss out on youngsters Asmir Kadric and Martin Lo due to first-team commitments, and with the side coming off a mammoth 120 minute effort in last weekend’s penalty shootout win over APIA Leichhardt, Saturday afternoon’s contest resembles one of the most evenly poised matches of the season.
Minor Semi Final
APIA Leichhardt Tigers v Sydney Olympic, Sunday 1.30pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
APIA Leichhardt Tigers and Sydney Olympic meet as championship dark horses in Edensor Park in Sunday’s minor semi-final at Sydney United Sports Centre.
Having dominated Bonnyrigg White Eagles for large spells in last Sunday’s qualifying final defeat on penalties, APIA will have to muster a huge response against an Olympic side growing in momentum and confidence by the week.
George Sidis’ side will lament their failure to wrap up a position in the major semi-final – a feat that could possibly have been achieved in the opening forty five minutes, with competition golden boot winner Duncan Stewart suffering an uncharacteristically wasteful afternoon in goal.
Stewart did net a hat trick against Olympic in their last meeting, the second of two comfortable victories over the Belmore club this campaign, however with John Theodoropoulos’ team undergoing a renaissance of sorts in the final month of the season it should be anything but a third routine for APIA at Sydney United Sports Centre.
The Blues continued their improbable charge towards the 2016 championship with a thrilling penalty triumph over Sutherland Sharks in last week’s elimination final, a match that saw Olympic further demonstrate their credentials in a dogged defensive showing as they slogged to a fifth win in a row.